Berglund Center presents Inspired Ideas Competition promising support for student innovations
For almost 10 years, Director of the Pacific University Berglund Center J. Andy Soria, Ph.D., has been trying to get The Pacific Index to write about the Inspired Ideas Competition, an event hosted by the Berglund Center every spring that provides money to a few lucky students who, in only five minutes, pitch their innovative solutions for world problems to a panel of judges. Despite the simplicity and the substantial amount of funding available, Soria still finds that students don’t know about the competition or are unwilling to sign up.
“And I do not know why,” Soria lamented.
Here’s the deal: Founded in 2014, the Inspired Ideas Competition was Soria’s way of helping Pacific students push ideas into reality. “Each one of the three winning projects gets around $25,000 each in contributions from the (Berglund) Center. I probably put about $75,000 every year towards this.”
Each Pacific student who wins (teams can consist of non-student members as long as at least one student is enrolled at Pacific in the team) also receives a $1,000 scholarship and a Berglund
Participants have a lot of freedom with what they can do in the competition, both in what their idea is and how their idea is presented. The only criteria is that their idea “offers a solution to a known or emerging problem, and that is developed during the student’s tenure at the university,” according to the project’s page on the school’s website. This allows contestants such as first-year students Cryptid Parke and Gracie Shoemaker to present ideas like a video game that simulates what it’s like to live with disabilities.
“Our problem is ableism and internalized ableism and just the stigma against disabled people who are not able to do all of the things that an able-bodied person can do,” Parke explained. They continued, “The goal of our idea is to normalize the ‘disabled experience’ and kind of make it more accessible to able-bodied people to understand what it’s like to live like we do.”
“There is no one thing that we can make that will solve this problem,” co-presenter Shoemaker added. “Even if just a small thing like this, even if it just shows a few people. . .”
“It’s more of an impact than anything was before,” Parke finished.
Past winning projects include the first ever patent received by Pacific University: a product for firefighters that helps fellow firefighters know when they’re showing signs of cardiac arrest. The developers went on to win the following year with an app that complemented this device and a plan to start a company. Another product that won the competition was a drinking bottle that streamlines the process of adding nutritional supplements to water. One other product helps those with hand disabilities constrict their muscles to put on gloves. “Our work to support these student innovations all hinge on a successful competition,” said Soria. “So the more students, the more ideas we get, the better quality of our products.”
Students who are interested in registering but don’t have any ideas can sign up for a workshop on March 20 from 5 – 7 pm about how AI can help with brainstorming for the competition. “After hearing so many students here at Pacific saying ‘I don’t have a good idea,’ we’re hoping that we will have this workshop and break the ice,” Soria explained. Students can register for this workshop through the center’s Instagram bio. Additionally, Soria is planning another workshop on how to pitch ideas to the panel of judges.
The competition’s registration deadline is April 21 at 5 pm. The competition will be held the following day in the McGill Auditorium from 10 am-1 pm. “It is open to absolutely every field. Every idea that may come is properly valid,” Soria said. — Aaron Meeuwsen